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NV-CA High-Speed Train Back on Track

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

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Announced last week, Virgin Trains USA is ready to connect a high-speed train between Las Vegas and Southern California after a series tax-related delays.

The official announcement was made at the Nevada Economic Development Conference.

About the Project

Although reports claim that the rail service has been in the works since the 1990s, first plans about the Las Vegas-California rail weren’t announced until earlier this year. ABC News adds that the rail service deal was brokered while Virgin Trains USA was still operating as Brightline.

By March, Virgin Trains USA finished its acquisition of XpressWest, which had previously been working since 2005 to get the necessary permits to build a $7 billion high-speed rail line running from Victorville, California, to Las Vegas.

The 185-mile project, set to run on dual tracks, following the Interstate 15 corridor, includes future plans to extend out to Los Angeles. Lobbyist Danny Thompson, known for representing labor unions as well as other groups, noted that the I-15 is a problem, and once the stadium in Vegas is complete for the National Football League's Raiders, the roadway would become an even larger issue. (Roughly 40% of fans that are slated to attend Raiders games will be coming from outside Vegas.)

However, by June, the $4 billion project was reported to be delayed for up to two years due to the company responsible being unable to land tax abatements for the project.

Bob O’Malley, Vice President of Government Affairs for Virgin Trains, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that if the company had been able “to do something this session,” construction would have started next year. Company representatives plan to once again attend the 2021 legislative session in the quest for tax exemptions.

According to O'Malley's numbers, the rail project would create close to $2 billion in economic impact, as well as create over 1,000 construction jobs, remove 4.5 million cars from the nearby interstate per year and create $14 million in environmental benefits every year.

What’s Happening Now

Using Florida’s project as a model, O’Malley claims that construction on the Las Vegas-California rail project will begin sometime in 2020, with engineers already having completed 30% of the project’s design.

"It'll be a three-year build. We're excited about connecting those two markets,” said O’Malley.

Based on the company’s numbers, the rail plans to connect more than 22 million people with full travel time from Las Vegas to Victorville, California, estimated to take only 75 minutes, as passengers will be transported at speeds up to 150 mph. Company officials anticipate that a one-way trip will cost $60.

The first phase of the corridor is still planned to begin along I-15.

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President Steve Hill adds that because the high-speed rail will be located near the Strip, it will also make ease for visitors to access the Allegiant Stadium. Additionally, other professional and minor league teams would be positively affected by the rail project, with the city committed to at least 46 major events once construction is completed.

According to O’Malley, Virgin Trains USA is currently working on financing the project, but intends to finance it the same way they did in Florida—tax-exempt bonds and private funding.


Tagged categories: Funding; Government; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Rail; Upcoming projects

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